Ebola is a serious problem in the world today, but some people have found a way to make good out of a bad situation. Televangelist Jim Bakker talked about the threat of Ebola and postulated the now prevalent Right wing theory that terrorists could use the disease to attack the United States in an attempt to sell food packs. After looking at all the scary non-possibilities that could end the world as people know it, he then turned to the issue of food shortages and plugged Morningside Gourmet Recipes. The big special of the day was a bunch of desserts from a warehouse that, according to the graphic on the screen, would only cost $550 plus shipping.
Jim Bakker is essentially using people’s fears about Ebola and terrorism to make a profit. He is not the only person to do so. He looked at the price inflation for disaster preparedness materials on Amazon, including an apparently astronomical increase in the price of hazmat suits. Clever entrepreneurs like Bakker and others are taking advantage of the widespread panic in America in order to make a tidy profit. Politicians have also used much the same strategy in their campaigns, making ISIS and Ebola some of the main talking points of the season. Criticisms of Obama, especially his refusal to implement a travel ban, have been useful tools for GOP candidates running against Democrats.
What is particularly shameful about Bakker’s example of doom and gloom salesmanship is the connection with religion. In an “end times” style of rhetoric, he uses scripture to reinforce his sales pitch. One article about Ebola on his website reads, “Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” The basic message is that the end times have arrived, so be afraid and, by the way, by our expensive food that is supposed to last you forever because the world will end.
The use of fear tactics in advertising is nothing new, but the connection televangelist Jim Bakker makes between religion and the fear of Ebola in order to sell food packs is a heinous misuse of people’s faith. Tucked away in a “village” called Morningside in the Ozarks, Bakker is able to command enough of an audience to fund what looks from the outside like a cult. The news being as ubiquitous as it is in this modern era, the conspiracy theories about Ebola do their work well. Then he steps in with a message that is supposed to be about hope and proceeds to sell people something they will not need.
The fact of the matter is that the fears of terrorists using Ebola is a complete fiction. Vox took some time to address the theory and debunked it. Their conclusion was that “the insistence that terrorists are going to weaponize Ebola is nothing more than naked exploitation of America’s fears.” That is precisely what Bakker has done and the success of his efforts can be counted up in dollar signs.
While politicians are in some ways expected to make outlandish claims, people tend to expect more of their religious leaders. As ministers and preachers teach the virtues of faith and honesty, those who listen expect them to be an example of those beliefs. Televangelist Jim Bakker, however, has used Ebola to sell food supplies by stoking baseless fears of catastrophe. In that respect, he has violated the trust his viewers put in him and has sunk low in pursuit of mere money.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury